Shake table tests new earthquake technology

Posted at 5:37 PM, Feb 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-24 00:21:49-05

SAN DIEGO - The largest earthquake simulator was used Tuesday to demonstrate new technology that could save lives and money.

Engineers want to screw buildings, bridges and homes into the ground to protect them from earthquakes. Researchers from the University of Oklahoma and UC San Diego were in San Diego Tuesday putting what they call "helical piles" to the test.

They used the Englekirk Center for Structural Engineering in Kearny Mesa to test the piles, which are basically giant steel screws.

The Englekirk Center is home to the world's largest outdoor shake table, which can be used to simulate massive earthquakes.

Amy Cerato, Ph.D., said the helical piles literally screw through a building's foundation deep into the earth. The screws then absorb the waves and shaking generated by an earthquake.

"So [the waves] starts out at the bottom and its going crazy and by the time it gets to the top [to the building], it's dampened enough so the building doesn't feel those loads," said Cerato, who is in San Diego from Oklahoma to use the shake table.

"It can be used under homes to minimize damage or under pools to minimize cracking and things like that," she said.

"It's not a question of if there would be an earthquake or not; it's a question of when," said UC San Diego professor Joel Conte, Ph.D.